Where are the apostles today?
Paul wrote many epistles to churches and some epistles to individuals Timothy, Titus and Philemon. Of all the epistles to individuals, his two epistles to Timothy are outstanding. In his epistles to individuals, we can see the apostolic love for the individual members of the Body of Christ.
Paul called the young Timothy "my own son in the faith" and "my dearly beloved son". Where are the apostles today, who treat the individual believers as their own sons in the faith?
While writing his second epistle, Paul was conscious of his home-call. He knew that he was nearing his martyrdom. But he did not care for his own life but cared for the young Timothy. Paul took time to write a long epistle to his beloved son in the faith, warning him against "the last days' perilous times" (II Tim.3:1). With a heavy heart, Paul warned Timothy against the tide of apostasy that had set in. Paul wrote, "This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia turned away from me…." (II Tim.1:15). The Asian churches had not disbanded, nor ceased to call themselves Christians but they had turned away from the doctrine of grace distinctively revealed through the Apostle. This was the proof that already the apostasy had set in, in its first form, legalism.
The apostle who was forsaken by those very people to whom he had preached the gospel did not lose his heart but wrote two long epistles to a single individual who was a youth. These days, many ministers do not want to minister to individuals because they are busy in God's work by way of holding big crusades. Even if you want to meet one of them, you cannot have easy access to him or her. You have to meet his/her personal staff just to get an appointment. If you are an influential person in the society, you may succeed in getting the appointment with the minister concerned. Can you expect the minister concerned to write to you a long letter or to send you a personal email? No. Where are the apostles today who take care of the individuals and who take time to warn the individuals personally against the false doctrines or against the days of apostasy?
A true apostle is the one who not only takes care of the individuals but also has upon himself "the care of all the churches" (II Tim.11:28). His vision is for all the churches of God in the universal Body of Christ and not for any particular denomination churches or for the churches geographically confined to his nation.
A true apostle is the one who through his prophetic eyes sees the decline of the Christian standards in his time. The one who hankers after church pulpits but does not expose the doctrines of apostasy in the churches concerned for fear of losing the pulpit is not an apostle at all.
Today, we see that many churches have turned away from the doctrine of grace but have turned towards certain sets of rules and legalism. We are indeed in the days of apostasy. We cannot expect revivals in those churches that are in the grip of apostasy. Where are the apostles who warn the churches against this tide of apostasy that is raging the churches of God today? At times, we find the so-called apostolic gatherings in our midst. But we do not get any siren of warning nor hear the blowing of trumpets from such apostolic gatherings about the tide of apostasy.
According to certain false doctrine, the foundation of apostles and prophets had already been laid once for all during the apostolic period and the same foundation cannot be laid time and again. Please note that Paul wrote to the saints in Ephesus that they were built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets who were indeed responsible for preaching the gospel to them, and for their further spiritual growth. Paul in the same Epistle to the Ephesians says that Christ gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Eph.4: 10-12). The same Paul writes to the Corinthians, God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues (I Cor.12: 28).
Paul had a vision of the body of Christ, which consisted of all these ministers. Today, some false teachers present a truncated body of Christ i.e. a body sans apostles and prophets, and says that the signs and wonders were mainly confined to the apostolic age. Please note that the people of God are built on the same foundation of apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ being the Chief Corner Stone. However, the offices of these two kinds of ministers i.e. apostles and prophets are occupied by those members of the body of Christ who live today. An office can never be kept vacant. For instance, different people are occupying the office of the President or the Prime Minister of a nation during different periods. In our midst, there are indeed apostles and prophets whom you may not recognize. The same Holy Spirit appoints appropriate persons to these ministries.
According to false teachers, the qualification for an apostle was his knowing the Lord after the flesh as per 2 Cor.5: 16. If knowing the Lord according to the flesh was the only qualification of an apostle, what about the apostles who knew Him in the Spirit after His ascension into the heaven? Let these false teachers read the church history to know about the apostles raised by God during different periods. If they try to argue that writing of the Epistles was also a qualification of an apostle, then what about other apostles like Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Simon the Zealot who had not written a single epistle?
Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote many epistles to the churches, which existed in those days, considering the peculiar problems faced by them, and not out of his experience of knowing the Lord after the flesh. However, the four gospels were written by the other 4 apostles as inspired by the Holy Spirit, giving an account of what they had seen and heard as eyewitnesses to the earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Except those 4 gospels, nobody else after them or even Paul did write any further gospel. These days, no apostle is supposed to write another gospel. However, the apostles and prophets who are the foundation of the body of Christ are inspired by the same Holy Spirit to counsel and warn the churches of God today. If the present day ministers of God or the people of God had listened to them, the churches would not have found themselves in such a despicable situation as it is today. Their counsels and warnings cannot be termed as the present Word or any new revelation.
These days, we hardly recognize the apostles appointed by God in the first place, the prophets in the second place and the teachers in the third place. It is a pity that we recognize only the evangelists, the pastors and the ministries of healing and miracles, which are assigned a place just below the three kinds of ministers. We have changed the order of preference set by the Holy Spirit arbitrarily today.
The Body of Christ was founded on the apostles and prophets, the day the Church was born on the day of Pentecost. It could not be founded after the birth of the Church.
The day the Church was born, it was founded on the apostles and prophets. It was the only foundation, Jesus Christ being the Chief Corner Stone. At the time of laying the foundation, the Founder of the Church, the Holy Spirit, laid the foundation on the apostles and prophets. Nobody can name those apostles and prophets whom God in mind at the time of laying the foundation of the Church? Yes, of course, we know the apostles like Paul, Peter, James, Mark, Luke, John, Mathew, etc. Can we know the mind of the Divine Builder Who had planned the foundation and construction of the Church, the Body of Christ? The apostles are always the apostles. The prophets are always the prophets. They are not only the apostles and prophets who entered glory but also the living apostles and prophets who exist today; they also include the apostles and prophets who will take birth in this world.
The apostles and prophets of today have not received any other new revelation from God. They see the Body of Christ through their spiritual eyes in the Pauline epistles. AND THEY CARRY ON THE SAME MINISTRIES/OFFCES OF APOSTLES AND PROPHETS TODAY, CONFIRMING AND INTERPRETING THE EPISTLES OF PAUL, PETER, etc.
The Scripture writing was not the only qualification for an apostle. The apostles and prophets have to deal with the plethora of false doctrines, and the doctrines of other innumerable religions. The apostles have to preach the gospel in the places not reached by the gospel and to establish the churches.
Paul, while writing to the Corinthians, did not say that the Church was founded on himself, or the apostles who lived along with him. He mentioned that God hath set apostles, in the first place, in the Body of Christ. The same Body of Christ still continues to function with the same foundation of the apostles and prophets. The Holy Spirit has not named any particular apostle or apostles in the epistles.
Another point raised by these teachers is that the Church, the Body of Christ was founded on the Old Testament prophets and the apostles of the Lord Who had been with the Lord physically. The Holy Spirit taught to me a parable of building a house in this regard. This parable is given below:
I am building my house by laying a foundation. I have to dig my land for laying the foundation. I cannot dig the foundation already laid by somebody else. Similarly, the house under the Old Covenant was built by God with the foundation of Law. Moses was faithful in his house as a servant. But, another house was built by God with Christ as a Son over His own house; whose house are we......(Heb.3:3-6). God did not demolish the earlier house for building this new house. God, the Builder, laid a new foundation for this House on the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the Chief Corner Stone. Though the Old Testament prophets had the wonderful revelation of Christ and His Body, they did not handle the Word of Life. But we, the House of God under the New Testament do handle the Word of Life.
When I counted the number of apostles (for instance) in the N. T. it was considerably more than 12 or 13! I discovered at least Three orders of apostles.
First Order: Jesus Christ;
Second Order: Those handpicked, personally taught and trained disciples (numbering 12 plus 70);
Third Order: Those disciples who were given by God to the Church. Obviously Second Order and Third Order overlapped for a time until all of the handpicked apostles had died, but Third Order Apostles will continue in the Church as long as the Church continues in the earth. Today they are called "missionaries" in many denominations, but if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, etc.... However, what we want to see is the demonstration of apostolic and prophetic power fully restored in these days.
And of prophets in the N.T., there is considerable evidence, not the least of which is the reference to the prophets in the church at Antioch (Acts 131-2) who fasted, prayed, and laid hands on Barnabas and Saul to send them out by the Holy Spirit. Modern prophets are called troublemakers in assemblies where they attempt to exercise their gifts and calling. But pastors, elders, presbyters, bishops, deacons, and other gifted ministers, will need to eventually submit to the prophet's message if they are to press into the last great Move of God which is to birth the Manchild Company, or else suffer certain consequences before the Second Coming of Christ.
It is time that those who are called of God as Apostles and Prophets to get real and get honest before God. They need to comprehend the biblical world view which seeks to know the Truth regardless as to its effect on their previously held perceptions of "truth". So much is outright error, and truth mixed with error. So little is pure Truth. Let the Prophets speak Truth, and let the Apostles receive it. Now is the time!
Some queries and our comments
Some years ago, there was a hot discussion in a Christian web-site forum on the above issue. During the discussion, the Spirit of God led me to deal with this doctrine on the basis of the Word of God. The queries raised by a dear member and my comments are given below.
Certainly the church today needs church planters, missionaries, or leaders who act as pastors over other pastors. Fortunately, when some people say that the church needs "apostles" today, that's all that they mean. And while the usage of the term "apostle" is not biblical, certainly the church does need such persons.
Our comments: How can you say that the pastors of the local churches are the church planters, missionaries? Many servants of God from America, England and other European countries came to India and established churches where Christ was not named. They were apostles indeed. They could have pastured some churches in their own nations. William Carrey was a pastor in England but came to India as an apostle, in obedience to his apostolic calling by God. I have already explained to you in my earlier post about the apostolic ministries. An apostle is not one who has established a particular denominational group of churches in a place which was already evangelized and where Christ is already named.
Please note that according to the pattern of the churches established by Apostle Paul, each local church should be administered by deacons or elders. The pastors are appointed only to the Body of Christ as one of the five types of New Testament ministers.
When some people say that the church needs "prophets" today, they mean that the church needs Spirit-filled leaders who can inspire the church with a vision for its mission, or who can challenge the church to deeper commitment to Christ.
Our comments: Yes, the Church, the Body of Christ needs prophets today who can inspire the local churches with a vision for the evangelical mission or who can challenge sleeping local churches to a deeper commitment to Christ through evangelism and revival.
If by "apostles" and "prophets" one means Christian leaders of the same kind as the twelve apostles or the apostle Paul, they are clearly mistaken. There are no church leaders today whose authority cannot be questioned, or through whom new doctrinal revelations are given to the church, or whose teachings must be accepted by all Christians.
Our comments: Apart from the 12 apostles raised up by God during the New Testament period, the same apostolic ministries continued to function after the death of the 12 apostles who had lived during the earthly ministry of Jesus.
What do you mean by “new doctrinal revelations”? Paul gave doctrinal revelations about faith in Christ Jesus to those who were steeped in the laws and the commandments of the Jewish religion. Similarly, God did raise up many apostles like Paul during the later centuries to deal with many doctrinal issues when the people from the heathen religions began to accept Christ. Why did God raise up Martin Luther as a great reformer? God did raise him up as an apostle to deal with the false doctrines of the Catholic Church. Of course, all the apostles raised up by God after the ministry of Paul did confirm what Paul said in his epistles to the churches that existed during the New Testament period. In India, God did raise up Sadhu Sunder Singh, called an apostle with bleeding feet, who preached the gospel from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in India and went to countries like USA, UK, Canada, during the 19th century. Sadhu Sundar Singh lived like a Hindu hermit, wearing the saffron dress as commanded by Jesus Christ. He has beautifully dealt with the doctrines of Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, etc which the great Apostle Paul could not deal with.
Of course, I agree that no apostle of today can claim that his authority should run over all the churches. The Body of Christ is a multi-membered body. Everyone in the Body should submit himself/herself to the other members of the Body.
The New Testament teaches that the apostles of Christ were persons to whom Christ appeared after His resurrection and whom He commissioned to be His personal spokesmen (Acts 1:21-26; 5:32; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8).
Our comments: If your argument is to be accepted, what about Paul, the great apostle? Jesus did not appear to him in His resurrected body before His ascension. Paul had only seen a vision of Christ on his way to Damascus. In I Cor.15:8, Paul says that last of all Jesus was seen by him also, as by one born out of due time. Paul saw Jesus not in His resurrected Body. Had he seen Jesus in His resurrected Body, Paul would have believed Him earlier. But he saw Christ in a heavenly vision which resulted in his conversion. The same Paul writes in 2 Cor.5:7 that we should walk by faith, not by sight. There were many apostles like Martin Luther, George Wesley, who had not seen Christ in His resurrected Body.
Ephesians 2:20 and 3:5 teach that the apostles and prophets had foundational offices through which Christ established the church as the newly constituted people of God, a church in which both Jews and Gentiles make up the singular body of Christ.
Our comments: Please note that Paul, while writing to the saints in Ephesus, said that they were built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets who had lived at that particular point of time.
Clearly many men today who claim to be apostles have taken upon themselves authority over other people which has not been given to them by God. Additionally, they are making prophetic utterances which they falsely claim to be divinely inspired.
Our comments: I agree with you in this regard. Though there are many aberrations like this in the Body of Christ, some wrongly claiming to be the apostles and the prophets, this does not mean that there are no true apostles and prophets in the Body of Christ today. Sitting before the computer, you cannot look for the true apostles and the prophets who live today in the Body of Christ. You are most welcome to our mission fields to see for yourself the works of apostles whom God has raised up in this nation. By judging on a few ministers like Benny Hinn, etc, you cannot come to the conclusion that there are no apostles today.
You should name a living prophet that prophecies future events, aligns with Scripture and passes the tests for a prophet that God established in Deuteronomy 18.
Our comments: Verse 20 of Deut.18 warns a prophet against speaking a word which He has not commanded him to speak. The punishment for such a prophet is death.
Verse 22 in Deut.18 says that when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
The above verse says very clearly that when a prophet speaks in the Name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen, it means that the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. This shows that a prophet of God may prophesy presumptuously. In that case, you need not be afraid of him. You can just ignore him. Here, the prophet does speak in the name of the Lord. But the thing prophesied by him does not happen. However, the prophet is still a prophet.
Read about the prophetic ministry of Agabus in the book of Acts (11:27-28 & 21:10-11). Whatever he did prophesy had come true. This shows that a New Testament prophet can predict future events as led by the Spirit.
The test of a true prophet is that he remains true to the Word of God, despite many trials and tribulations that he comes across. It is for God to judge him, and not for any man or any woman to pass judgment on his ministry.
Dearly beloved, please read I Cor.13:9-10, about the gift of prophecy. We know in part and we prophesy in part. When the perfection comes at the time of the second advent of Jesus, we will not require either the ministry of a prophet or the gift of prophecy. As such, the ministry of a prophet or the gift of prophecy is now imperfect.
You also want me to name a true prophet whose prophecies will come true. Are you on the look-out for a true prophet? In that case, you should go to the wilderness to see a true prophet like John the Baptist who remained in the wilderness. This reminds me of the words of Jesus in Math.11:7-11 concerning John the Baptist. “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses….A prophet?
I challenge you to go to the wilderness to see a prophet, and not by asking others to show you a true prophet while you are seated yourself comfortably before a computer. In case you cannot find out the wilderness in your nation. I will take you to the wilderness where you can see for yourself a true prophet. I cannot show you a true prophet when you sit before your computer.
A prophet? Do you look for a prophet? You cannot find a true prophet in the comforts of the pulpit of a church. You cannot find him in the king’s house, living a luxurious life. You may not see him in any T.V. Channel. He will be like John the Baptist, preaching a message of repentance, boldly without fearing any man or any king in authority. John did not predict any event. Why are you looking out for a prophet who should predict some future events by sitting before your computer? Why are you looking for a prophet with some signs because the prophet himself is a sign?
If some people have falsely prophesied on certain future events, that does not mean that there are no prophets in the Body of Christ and that the Church, the Body of Christ, does not need the prophets today.
You may have some servants of God in your mind whose prophecies did not come true. I do not want you to name them. Please note that a New Testament prophet does not always predict the future events. He has more important functions to perform. He has to expose the false doctrines that afflict the Body of Christ and to give prophetic warnings to the churches.
You have referred to the ministry of Benny Hinn. Benny Hinn is an evangelist, and not a prophet. However, if his messages are in accordance with the Word of God, we should ignore his messages. You are not supposed to judge him as a false prophet.
Indeed, there are false prophets in our midst, especially, those who prophesy in the name of heathen gods (Verse 20 of Deut.18).
Please note that the living apostles and prophets are of the living Body of Christ. Otherwise, there may be a truncated Body of Christ, devoid of apostles and prophets abut consisting of only pastors and evangelists.
Despite all the imperfections of a particular prophetic ministry that you have in mind, God needs that particular foolish ministry because God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the mighty. It is not your or my choice to keep an imperfect prophet in the Body of Christ.
Who are we to judge that the Body of Christ does not need the ministries of apostles and prophets today? It is God who appoints the apostles and prophets to the Body of Christ.